A baby elephant named Santosh walks beside its mother Lai Sinh at their enclosure of the Tierpark Hagenbeck zoo in Hamburg, northern Germany, on January 11, 2019.

A baby elephant named Santosh walks beside its mother Lai Sinh at their enclosure of the Tierpark Hagenbeck zoo in Hamburg, northern Germany, on January 11, 2019.

What makes humans distinct from other animals? That question is not as easy to answer as you might think.

The bones in our hands match “almost perfectly” with the bones of a dolphin’s front fin, a horse’s front legs, and a bat’s wings according to scientist Adam Rutherford, author of Humanimal.

Here’s more, from a recent piece by Rutherford in The Guardian:

We are desperate to find the things that tip us over the edge from being merely an animal into Hamlet’s paragon of animals. Was it our language? Was it religion, or music, or art, or any number of things that are not as unique to us as we had once thought? The truth is that it was all of these things and more, but crucially, it was in the engagement of our minds to transmit skills and ideas to others. We changed our societies and maximised how culture is transmitted. We took evolution’s work, and by teaching each other, we created ourselves.

In that piece, Rutherford pushes back on clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson’s hypothesis about lobster hierarchies, which Peterson uses to support a hypothesis that people are “wired” to work in hierarchies. (This theory has been widely criticized.)

We speak with Rutherford about the genes that connect us to animals and about his latest work, “Humanimal: How Homo sapiens Became Nature’s Most Paradoxical Creature—A New Evolutionary History.”

Produced by Haili Blassingame and Bianca Martin.

Guests

  • Adam Rutherford Geneticist; host, "Inside Science" on BBC Radio; author, Humanimal: How Homo sapiens Became Nature's Most Paradoxical Creature and A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes; @AdamRutherford

Topics + Tags

Most Recent Shows